If I had a super power right at this moment in time, it might be the ability to see (and know about) the driver of a taxi before he pulls over in the middle of traffic and I jump inside. Case in point. After work today I walked out to the curb in front of my school, waiting to hail a cab just like every other day. The law of threes usually applies to taxi cabs...you can wait for an eternity and never see a cab, and then three will speed by in quick succession. Today, I waited for about five minutes, pretending to chat on my cell phone (a secret trick I learned so that I look busy and less susceptible to cars honking at me or guys pulling over to get my number). Suddenly, a taxi pulled over. Before I had a chance to step toward it, another taxi swerved dangerously through traffic and pulled in front of the first one. The second taxi was closer to me, so I jumped inside. I immediately regretted my decision, when I realized that the driver was sporting the full Muslim look (head cap, long flowing white robe, and the full length beard that I usually only see on tv). Now, I have no problem with the typical arab dress worn by many men over here. I'm used to it. But this degree of muslim fashion usually means one thing- Pakistan. People who know me will know that I am not into stereotypes...but having already had a bad experience with a Pakistani cab driver a week ago, I found myself wishing I had chosen the first cab.
Most taxi rides follow the same routine. First comes uncomfortable silence and discreet glances in the rearview mirror. This is followed by inquiries about where to go...usually a way to gage my level of arabic. This is followed by a question as to my nationality. Upon hearing American, I usually get an excited "Obama, zain!" (meaning, Obama, good!)...to which I chuckle and reply yes, Obama good. Then comes the dreaded question: are you married? When I first got to Kuwait, that question often took me off guard; now I expect it. And herein lies the rub. Up until today, I always replied honestly. No, I am not married. But that response is usually followed by various odd comments. So today, I lied. Yes, I lied. Now I know that as a believer, I am never supposed to lie. The lie felt odd on my lips. Yes, I am married. How long? Oh, almost two years. No kids yet, but maybe soon. Yes, he lives in Kuwait and works at the same university. And onwards and upwards. So I ask myself, is it wrong to tell this lie? Honestly, the part that upsets me the most is the need to tell the lie. As a strong single woman (and sometimes christian feminist), how dare a man make me feel like I have to tell a lie in order to be safe? But reality is different than ideal...and this strong independent world traveling christian feminist finds herself making up an imaginary husband in an attempt to self-protect. Life is easier this way. Maybe I should give him a name...Jason or David or Sawyer (shout out to those Lost fans). When I travel, I wear a ring on my wedding finger. Is this much different? Honestly, I don't know. But only three hours later, I found myself in another cab, being asked the same question, and telling the same little lie. This is funny and this is serious. This is life in Kuwait, and probably in the Middle East at large. It is another glimpse into the culture, and a sobering look at how that culture shapes and affects me every day. Sometimes I change to accommodate this culture, and sometimes I hold strong. Lord give me the strength to recognize and stand firm in the things that matter, and to let go of the things that do not.